Modelling the climatic drivers determining photosynthesis and carbon allocation in evergreen Mediterranean forests using multiproxy long time series
Abstract. Climatic drivers limit several important physiological processes involved in ecosystem carbon dynamics including gross primary productivity (GPP) and carbon allocation in vegetation. Climatic variability limits these two processes differently. We developed an existing mechanistic model to analyse photosynthesis and variability in carbon allocation in two evergreen species at two Mediterranean forests. The model was calibrated using a combination of eddy covariance CO2 flux data, dendrochronological time series of secondary growth and forest inventory data. The model was modified to be climate explicit in the key processes addressing the acclimation of photosynthesis and the pattern of C allocation, particularly to water stress. It succeeded in fitting both the high- and the low-frequency response of stand GPP and carbon allocation to stem growth. This would support its capability to address both C-source and C-sink limitations. Simulations suggest a decrease in mean stomatal conductance in response to a recent enhancement in water stress and an increase in mean annual intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE) in both species during the last 50 years. However, this was not translated into a parallel increase in ecosystem water use efficiency (WUE). The interannual variability in WUE closely followed that in iWUE at both sites. Nevertheless, long-term decadal variability in WUE followed the long-term decrease in annual GPP matching the local trend in annual precipitation observed since the late 1970s at one site. In contrast, at the site where long-term precipitation remained stable, GPP and WUE did not show a negative trend and the trees buffered the climatic variability. In our simulations these temporal changes were related to acclimation processes at the canopy level, including modifications in LAI and stomatal conductance, but also partly related to increasing [CO2] because the model includes biochemical equations where photosynthesis is directly linked to [CO2]. Long-term trends in GPP did not match those in growth, in agreement with the C-sink hypothesis. The model has great potential for use with abundant dendrochronological data and analyse forest performance under climate change. This would help to understand how different interfering environmental factors produce instability in the pattern of carbon allocation and, hence, the climatic signal expressed in tree rings.